April 19, 2018

Our elections, still a façade


Cross section of Voters Queuing for accreditation and Voting, at unity 10, world A6, Ogunmodede juniors college, Epe, Epe Local Government Area, during the 2017 Lagos State Local Government Election by Lagos state Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC, on. 22/07/2017. Photo: Bunmi Azeez

By Josef Omorotionmwan

WELCOME to Nigeria, a land of unequal opportunities; and a land where you must first pretend to hate what you earnestly desire so that people will build the acceptance for you. This is more so in the political arena where we have always produced unwilling Presidents. In the Second Republic, even where there were many vibrant Nigerians who wanted to be the President, we still reached out for Alhaji Shehu Shagari in one remote area of Sokoto State as a village headmaster.

Again, no blames here. It is the duty of the political party to search for a winning candidate and pull him out from wherever he is.

Cross section of Voters Queuing for accreditation and Voting, at unity 10, world A6, Ogunmodede juniors college, Epe, Epe Local Government Area, during the 2017 Lagos State Local Government Election by Lagos state Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC, on. 22/07/2017. Photo: Bunmi Azeez

But for the ultimate decider, death, no one would have prevented the strongman, Sani Abacha, from transforming into life President, no thanks to the various “50-million-man matches” that broke out sporadically from across the nation; and the five political parties at the time had dissolved into the plan.

For years, Nigerians were on their knees, begging General Olusegun Obasanjo, as he then was, to show interest in the civilian presidency of the country – long after it was an open secret that he had been anointed by the powers-that-be. Finally, he unwillingly accepted the request.

When power became sweeter than he expected, he replicated the same process on two other occasions – when he sought a second and the ill-fated third terms.

The electro-engineering experts out there spent a larger part of 2013, trying to prevail on President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2015 election before he unwillingly accepted to do so.

For the past one year, they have been appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to contest the 2019 election, to the extent that some motor park touts threatened to go on strike if he failed to respond quickly. He has finally accepted the pleas, albeit unwillingly. This has thrown us back to our usual position – doing what we should not be doing and abandoning what we should do. I realize the risk and outright knocks that await me should I be caught endorsing Buhari for re-election. I must quickly say that I am not out for that here. But the facts must be set right.

President Buhari’s declaration of intention to enter the 2019 race does not qualify as a matter for national discourse, to the extent that the Fayoses of this world and other groups of the opposition persuasion are now the main special advisers to the APC on which aspirant to sponsor. That’s a major role for the primary elections.

Yes, after assuming office, Buhari took ill and he was out of his duty post for more than four months in the aggregate. God healed him and when God heals a man, He attaches no conditions. Buhari thinks he is well enough to give the 2019 race a shot. He is perfectly entitled to the declaration.

Some have argued that Buhari must be tempting God who brought him out of the deep valley of death, but instead of resting himself, he is still struggling to enter the 2019 race. We insist that, that is still a matter for the primaries. If in spite of it all, the primaries spring him up as the party’s candidate, so be it.

Knowing what they know now, the opposition parties should begin to do their home work instead of constituting themselves into meddlesome interlopers. If they reckon that sponsoring a weak candidate who may not be too well might swing sympathy votes in the majority party’s favour, then, they should also seek for sick candidates that might bring them the same advantage. This may, in fact, lead to a process of positive elimination – in most cases, the running mates are younger and more vivacious then their principals. Where the principal dies in office, this may become a tremendous advantage for the country. So runs the argument.

Everyone should play his role. If the screening of the candidates is to be deposited in the market place, what role shall we have for the political parties and INEC?

Our duty at this time should be to begin to examine the rules of engagement and the ground norms for our elections as they apply to all the stakeholders, not a few selected individuals.

By and large, our elections and the primaries leading to them are still a façade. Politicians have over the years developed a bag of tricks. Lately, at the primaries, the offerings from the aspirants have become so humongous that they can only be executed in Dollars. The primaries have become a process of cash-n-carry in which the biggest spender, not the best aspirant, emerges victorious. This explains two phenomena currently emerging – there is cut-throat competition in becoming a delegate; and invariably, the incumbents who hold the power of the purse always emerge winners. The graduating Governors move smoothly into the Senate, hence very soon, we shall have a Senate of all past Governors.

INEC sits in an air-conditioned office in Abuja and boasts of going to stop the cash-for-vote process. Let them tell that to the marines! How are they going to do it when the process starts from INEC itself? Every major political party has the most robust budget outlays for INEC and the Security operatives almost from top to bottom. Voting is done at the polling unit and the payment is done at the “treasury” located outside the voting precinct. A woman votes and gets N5,000. There is no greater campaign than that. She will be the one to pull out every member of the community to come out and receive the wonders! Who will stop it – the police, SSS and other law enforcers, who had been settled the previous night?

When are we going to start looking at the pre-election debates seriously? For some time now, we have allowed the Generals to bluff through them. This should not be. Elsewhere, elections are won and lost on the basis of the debates. Why are we different? These are some of the salient issues that should be engaging our minds at this point.